Books and Documents
Islamic Culture

The Islamisation of a Culture
Rana Allam

I do not want to imagine what kind of culture this minister will enforce in our cinemas, books, music, arts and cultural centres! These, along with their censorship committee, are under the leadership of the Islamist Alaa Abdel Aziz. But will they be able to censor Egyptian youth?...

Connecting Minds — Creating the Future
Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Connecting Minds — Creating the Future
Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

More than 1,200 years ago, while Europe was in its Dark Ages, the Muslim world was ruled by a dynasty of Islamic leaders who embraced free thought and creativity from all corners of the globe. Never before had history witnessed such cultural openness and symbiosis as during the reign of the Abbasid Caliphs. They built the world’s first university, named it Bayt Al Hikma (House of Wisdom) and filled its library with the finest cultural, scientific and literary creations known to mankind....


Muslim women do need liberating — not from Islam — from their indigenous cultural practices, often conflated with Islam. Muslims must not be reticent; they need to bear the responsibility for the liberation of Muslim women and ensure that they are not deprived of the rights granted to them by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) more than 1,400 years ago....

Child Marriage in Islam: A Myth?
Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad

In Islam, this is the true position of a girl achieving puberty or the age of proper understanding when it comes to marriage. The religion basically prescribes that a child ceases to be a minor upon her first menstruation, regardless of age. Once approached with a marriage proposal, she has the option to accept or reject it. Her consent is a necessary prerequisite for a valid marital contract. Her guardian enjoys no liberty to force her to accept any proposal if she is unwilling....

At least, this was the case until the new religious leaders decided to redefine what Egypt's national culture is. The political victory of the Salafist movements and the Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak reawakened the Salafists' desire for a cultural revolution that would match their views. The question of whether dance - and ballet, in particular - is permissible from a religious perspective is not a new issue....


Filmistan: Here and There
Waseem Altaf

Indian films are screened in more than 90 countries of the world whereas Pakistani films have almost no access to international market. While there are dozens of cinema houses in Delhi, Islamabad is the only capital city in the world where there is not even one single cinema hall. At present most of our film studios are in ruins and a sizable number of cinema houses lay demolished. Today Indian films are tough contenders for International film awards and.....

They scorched the stages of Algeria and Tunis, in Casablanca and Baghdad, and also in Berlin and Paris. With bobbed hair − a daring style for the time − a thin cigarette in a holder between their fingers, they were among the leaders of the musical and cultural scene in their countries and even became international stars. They are the great Jewish female musicians and singers who were active in North Africa and the Middle East in the mid-20th century...


Ignoring the Stereotypes of Expats, Saudis
Sabria S. Jawhar

The Saudi pushed aside women to retrieve his bags from the belt, and then demanded loudly that the porter come immediately. For many foreigners, it was probably their first impression of Saudi Arabia as they entered the country. In another instance, my husband recalled waiting to make a transaction at a Western Union office when a Saudi woman entered the office full of expats, grabbed her maid by the hair and pulled her out of line and literally threw her into the car....


“We, the students of Dacca University, who initiated the language movement in East Pakistan three years ago (and) who are now more determined than ever to secure for Bangla the status of state language of Pakistan, will take this opportunity, while you are assembled at Karachi, to press once more our legitimate claim . . . We refuse to believe that any language under heaven can be Islamic or Christian or heathen....

In ancient Egypt only high priests and anointed pharaohs were allowed into the temple precincts. The common folk followed their own religious practices, based on what they heard went on behind the temple, inside the temple walls, together with the knowledge that they were allowed or expected to acquire....


Ghalib's Poetry Reflects the Spirit behind Free and Open Source Software (SOFF) Movement
Mirza Ghalib

Open source programme creators cater to the highest standards and give away their work for free, much like Ghalib who wrote not just for money but the discerning reader Mirza Ghalib, the great poet of 19th century Delhi and one of the greatest poets in history, would have liked the idea of Open Source software. ....

As the conflict in Mali intensifies, it is not just the country’s traditional mausoleums and ancient manuscript collections that may be under threat of loss or destruction. The publication of a further appeal for the protection of Mali’s cultural heritage by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, on 14 January has drawn renewed attention to the threat that the armed conflict in the country now represents for its cultural heritage.....


Celebrations of the Prophet’s Muhammad’s birthday are purely cultural for most – the holiday is not Islamic per se. The holiday is contested by some as being “un-Islamic” since orthodox religious establishments do not recognise the holiday religiously and say Islam does not require celebrations of any kind on the Prophet’s birthday, unlike the Eid holidays. Nevertheless, in Egypt, the celebrations are usually colourful and sometimes garish....

Thoufeek Zakriya is an Indian Muslim from the city of Cochin who does calligraphy in a number of languages, including Arabic, Samaritan, Syriac and Sanskrit. More interestingly, he is a Muslim who does masterful Hebrew calligraphy. While studying in madrasa, he learned that the Jewish people were considered by Islam to be ahl al-kitab (“People of the Book”), which sparked a curiosity in him to learn more about this religious community.


In some Islamic nations, polygyny is relatively common, while in others, including Turkey, Tunisia, and Bosnia and Herzegovinia, the practice is outright illegal. Even in large Muslim nations that allow it, such as Indonesia, the practice is increasingly unpopular. Non-Muslims dealing with Islamic communities should take caution against making assumptions, letting individual Muslims, their families and communities speak for themselves.


The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature - Part II
Rakhshanda Jalil
In her play Aurat, Rashid Jahan turned the image of the suffering woman on its head and made her a votary of progress. Fatima, a childless woman, is married to Atiq, a maulvi who is bent upon marrying again, ostensibly to beget an heir but actually to get a younger wife, the daughter of a 'devotee' who will also be more pliable. For all his ostentatious piety and dispensing of charms and amulets to the needy, Atiq is a wily, greedy, typically chauvinistic man who does not think twice about cursing and beating his wife when she questions his authority and wisdom.


The Bad Girl of Urdu Literature
Rakhshanda Jalil

Angarey contained five short stories by Sajjad Zaheer, two by Ahmad Ali, one by Mahmuduzzaafar, one short story and a play by Rashid Jahan. Given the provocative title and the deliberate defiance of existing literary norms by the four young writers, the book unleashed a storm of controversies and marked a turning point in the history of Urdu literature. Critics panned it for its crudeness and immaturity. Religious leaders expressed outrage and outright condemnation, some maulvis went so far as to issue fatwas (decrees) against the book and its authors.

Cairo: Beyond the Pyramids
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Cairo:  Beyond the Pyramids
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Three days later, when the conference gave over, I shifted to a poky little room at my own expense, which I shared with an army of cockroaches and which fitted my modest budget. It was located in the maze of narrow lanes in Cairo’s Old City Deep into the confusing nest of lanes in the vicinity is the Tent Makers’ Bazaar, on Al-Muiz Street, which must not be missed, where, in dozens of little stalls, men churn out leather tents, boots, felt caps, and patchwork embroidery depicting Pharaonic themes and scenes from daily Egyptian life.....


“The poets, who talk only about violence, bombs, junky lovers and vulgarity, do it for short-lived fame. They are not poets indeed,” opines Mr Laiq while referring to some poets, who write such songs for Pashto CD dramas and movies that are sold like hot cakes in the local market. A song can’t be termed popular if it has no lyrical message and just appeals to few persons....


There are many visible signs of creeping Wahabism in India. Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy says that one obvious sign is the transition of the Muslim greeting from Khuda Hafiz to Allah Hafiz. "Khuda Hafiz was the more accepted form of greeting among Muslims in India. But in the past two decades or so, ever since Indian Muslims began going to Saudi for jobs, Allah Hafiz has become the popular form," says Anand. "This is the subtle assault of an alien culture. Muslims working in Saudi not only send handsome remittances but also bring in Wahabi influences."....

The deal is, I donate $200 a month, which in turn will provide me an annual tax reduction by 60%. Not a bad deal considering, that could amount a saving of as much as $1000 a year. Satisfied with having done a great deal, I was wondering why I haven't spoken to him before. About a month later, the news broke out regarding an investigation and charges against a senior member of this particular foundation for misusing donation fund, amounting to a few million....


Islam Is About Real Love
Nazia Parveen

Then, four weeks ago, she completed the ‘revert’ process. She said: ‘I underwent the ‘Shahadah’ ceremony of conversion to Islam by repeating a declaration of faith in front of the Imam at my local multi-faith centre. ‘I had several Muslim sisters with me and they bought me a hijab and Islamic books to celebrate. It was wonderful.’  But she admits that her friends have been shocked at her conversion to a religion which is often seen as being oppressive towards women....

Taliban:  Main Fear Is Not Drones but Educated Girls
Mohammed Hanif

Not educating girls is not the only myth about Pashtuns: Pashtun mothers produce sons so that they can send them to war; fathers will shoot their daughters if a stranger sees their faces. Of course, as the myth goes, they also don't want to send their daughters to schools. And why do they need to send their sons to school anyway, if they are born soldiers in an eternal jihad? But there was no evidence of any such Pashtun culture in the Swat valley I had visited the day before our conversation....

Patiala Gharana: The Saga of the Raga
Dr Mohammad Taqi

The association of the early Patiala masters with the Chishti Sufis is reflected in the lyrics of their many compositions but perhaps most clearly in what to me is their magnum opus, the raga Ram Saakh. The legend has it that performing the Khayal ‘piya tore nain’ in the elaborate, ornate and highly complex Ram Saakh, the Patiala pioneer Ali Bakhsh Khan beat a sarangi player Mirch Khan — so named for his fast pace — at the Maharajah’s court....


Ghalib Was the Greatest Of Mughal Indian Minds
Rakhshanda Jalil

My sense of historical linguistics led me to believe that Urdu is at the heart of India's lingua franca, structurally being akin to Hindi and Hindustani, my faith in the composite cultural genius of Urdu never faltered. Unfortunately, Urdu had been the victim of politicization and communalization. This has created difficulties for Urdu in India, but Urdu being a dynamic language has been coping rather well with the changing reality….

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